Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney has said a condensed Premiership makes more sense as the governing body works with England’s top division to create a more sustainable structure and address player welfare issues.
Sweeney’s comments came amid financial crises at both Wasps and Worcester Warriors which have prompted the RFU to announce plans to review the league’s structure.
Wasps, one of only four ever-present Premiership teams, are set to enter administration after being suspended from the top flight and are facing relegation to the Championship, a week after Worcester were wound up.
Calls have increased to reduce the number of teams in the Premiership to 10.
“We’ve been saying less is more for a long time. They [the clubs] didn’t like that approach a couple of years ago, mainly around the loss of matchday revenue,” Sweeney told reporters at the women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
“But I think now, with player welfare challenges on the number of matches you can play, a tighter, more condensed league makes more sense.”
Sweeney said the Premiership could explore the French model, where clubs must meet rigorous financial criteria before they are allowed to compete.
“They’ve got a thing called the Direction Nationale d’Aide et de Controle de Gestion. It’s like an independent audit group; they’re at arm’s length from the French Rugby Federation and Ligue Nationale de Rugby,” Sweeney said.
“But they have really interesting criteria in place, in terms of ‘you’ve got to fulfil this and have got to prove it at the start of the season to get a licence to play’.”
Sweeney said it was critical for the game to correct “a lot of things that have been wrong for a long time.”
“We’ve been saying for a while that none of us like this system, but now you’ve got the right people around the table,” he added.
“You’ve got a core group of owners who I would say are quite supportive of change as well, so all the conditions are in place to actually do that.”